The Arctic Sounder

Grizzly bear spotted close to Kotzebue

Authorities are asking Kotzebue residents to be cautious after a grizzly bear was spotted close to town this week.

No injuries or damage caused by the bear have been reported so far, but Alaska Wildlife Troopers cautioned that the bear might be hungry this late in the season.

Residents reported seeing an Interior grizzly on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, within a couple miles of Kotzebue, said Trooper Steven Cantine of the Alaska Wildlife Troopers.

“It was not in town proper, it was just on the outskirts,” he said, “at the end of the runway.”

While Northwest Arctic residents encounter bears year-round, such sightings are not common in Kotzebue this time of year, Cantine said.

Charlie Henry Jr., an Elder from Kotzebue, agreed: “That is so strange — brown bear in the middle part of the coldest months.”

When “a bear is awake this late in the year, typically, it’s because it didn’t get enough to eat and it’s probably hungry,” Cantine said.


“It might act a little bit more aggressive than you might see during the normal year,” Cantine said.

Resident April Jorgensen said she saw the bear Sunday evening when she was driving with her husband and her dog, a poodle, past the cemetery.

“I thought I saw a black trash bag on the right side of the road,” she said. We got about 5 feet from the ‘trash bag’ and it stood up.”

The brown bear ran into the tundra, Jorgensen said.

“I’m terrified of bears and this is the closest I came to one,” she said. “Kuppiaq, my dog, is OK.”

Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.